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December 16, 2018

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney's past criticisms of President Trump have received new attention over the weekend following Friday's news of Mulvaney's acceptance of his third role in the Trump administration.

After the 2016 discovery of Trump's lewd Access Hollywood remarks, Mulvaney wrote on his congressional Facebook page that Trump is "not a very good person," and his words were "disgusting and indefensible." In a debate with his Democratic rival for that year's election, Mulvaney similarly said he was supporting Trump despite thinking "he's a terrible human being" because "the choice on the other side is just as bad."

Despite this past antipathy, a Politico report late Saturday describes Mulvaney as an eager recipient of his new role. "He would have given up a very valuable appendage to get that job," an unnamed Republican close to the Trump White House claimed.

Politico's sources said Washingtonian assessment of Mulvaney's aims in rising through the ranks of the Trump administration varies. While "some conservatives on the Hill see him as a sellout, a ladder-climber who puts career advancement over principle," others "argue that he's done the best he can given the president he serves and advanced conservative priorities where he can." Read the full report here. Bonnie Kristian

1:02 p.m.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, released with redactions on Thursday, showed that President Trump's staffers don't always listen to his demands.

So on Monday, CNN's Kaitlin Collins asked Trump about that revelation. "Nobody disobeys my orders," he tersely and falsely claimed before walking away. As a recap, here are seven — or possibly more — officials who proved him wrong.

1. Former White House Counsel Don McGahn. Per Mueller's report, McGahn was "prepared to resign" over Trump's insistence that he have Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein oust Mueller.

2-3. Rick Dearborn and Corey Lewandowski. Trump asked these two officials to tell then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to "confine the Russia investigation to future election meddling only," Mueller's reporting shows. They didn't listen.

4. Ex-FBI Director James Comey. Trump told Comey to drop his drop his investigation into Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. But Comey refused, leading to "Flynn's prosecution and conviction for lying to the FBI," Mueller's report says.

5. Jeff Sessions. Trump tried to get his ex-attorney general to "unrecuse" himself from the Mueller probe, the report showed. Not that it's even clear if unrecusal is a thing.

6. Former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. She was ousted after saying she wouldn't try to reinstate a family separation policy, and for refusing to illegally close the border, per an NBC News report.

7. Some anonymous senior official — or a few. Remember the whole New York Times op-ed that detailed a legion of Trump officials working to disrupt his agenda every day? It's unclear who wrote it, or just how many officials are in this so-called resistance, though some speculate Nielsen was behind it all. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:47 p.m.

Herman Cain's Federal Reserve Board nomination is officially dead — and before it ever actually became official.

Trump on Monday said that Cain has "asked me not to nominate him" for the Federal Reserve Board seat, with the president saying he will "respect his wishes" while praising Cain as a "great American."

This comes after four Senate Republicans expressed opposition to Cain's nomination, enough to sink his chances of being confirmed. Trump hadn't actually formally nominated Cain yet, though. Some Republicans in recent weeks reportedly made a "behind-the-scenes" play to get Trump to drop Cain, who during his 2012 presidential run denied allegations of sexual harassment and previously said he wasn't sure he would make it through the "cumbersome" vetting process.

But the White House said it was up to Cain whether his nomination would proceed, even as it interviewed other candidates. Cain on April 17 told The Wall Street Journal he would not withdraw from consideration and was "very committed" to the process. "I don’t quit because of negative criticism," Cain said. "I don’t quit because of negative attacks. And I don’t quit because several senators have expressed reservations about my qualifications." Brendan Morrow

11:59 a.m.

NASA is getting ready to go hunting — not for a white whale, but for a jellyfish.

In a statement released last week, the agency announced its plans to investigate the distant galaxy ESO 137-001 once it launches its James Webb Space Telescope. The galaxy has earned its "jellyfish" nickname from the long "ribbons of young stars" that trail behind it as it makes its way through the cosmos, looking like "cosmic tentacles," NASA explained.

While it makes for a stunning picture, scientists aren't sure what enables the galaxy to form stars in such a manner. It's been a mystery since we first spotted ESO 137-001 using the Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory in 2014 — which is why, once the Webb telescope launches, it will take a closer look at the mysterious galactic cephalopod.

With a long trail of newly-forming stars and hot gases that are slowly leaking out of the galaxy, scientists have a rare opportunity to find out what's causing the leak, Space reported. This investigation could give us clues about how new stars form, and whether producing too many new stars can actually cause a galaxy to die.

The James Webb Space Telescope, which has experienced setbacks and delays already, is expected to launch in 2021. It will be able to take photographs of ESO 137-001 with much better resolution, and will observe more wavelengths of light to get more information about the galaxy.

Find out more about the galaxy, and our mission to learn about it, at Space. Shivani Ishwar

11:30 a.m.

Michael Bloomberg would like to wish everyone a happy Earth Day.

When the billionaire businessman and former New York City mayor announced in March that he was not launching a presidential campaign, he said that he would instead use his time to fight climate change. So far, he's following through — with his pocketbook, at least.

Bloomberg said on Monday that he is donating $5.5 million to the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat to "make up the funding gap" created by the Trump administration's decision to contribute just $2.5 million last year, and are expected do so again this year. That total falls short of the $15 million the Obama administration committed over that span after the U.S. signed off on the Paris Agreement on climate change, which the current White House plans to withdraw from in 2020.

This is the second straight year in which Bloomberg has made up the gap — last year he donated $4.5 million. A statement from Bloomberg Philanthropies said Bloomberg will provide additional funding should the U.S. fall short again in 2020. Tim O'Donnell

10:53 a.m.

Beto O'Rourke, a Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman, has had a rough April.

Two of O'Rourke's top advisers, Becky Bond and her deputy Zack Malitz, both resigned from the campaign less than a month after O'Rourke announced his presidential bid, reports The Washington Examiner. The reasons Bond and Malitz, who were both involved in O'Rourke's failed but momentous Senate campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in 2018, left remain unclear.

But the departures are just the latest examples of bad news that have struck O'Rourke's campaign this month. Last week, O'Rourke released his tax returns revealing that he twice slightly underpaid his taxes and has given little to charity. They also showed that he profited off stocks in fossil fuel, cigarette, tech and pharmaceutical companies — four industries which, to put it gently, are not currently beloved by Democratic voters.

O'Rourke initially burst onto the scene thanks to his charisma. The earliest days of his still-young campaign were defined by Vanity Fair cover photoshoots and jumping up on raised surfaces. But the 46-year-old is already ceding ground to South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is nine years his junior and octolingual. Buttigieg has "effectively caught" O'Rourke in many polls, per The Hill, which writes that O'Rourke may have "hit his ceiling," while Buttigieg has "a lot of room" to grow.

Don't peak too early, folks. Tim O'Donnell

10:34 a.m.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has activated a full spin cycle.

In a Friday CNN appearance, after Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report showed that Sanders admitted to making a false claim to the media, American Urban Radio Networks correspondent April Ryan declared that Sanders should be "fired, end of story." And then she expanded with what was a very obvious figure of speech, saying that "when there is a lack of credibility there ... you have to start lopping the heads off."

Sanders responded to those comments in a Monday appearance on Fox News, though in a seemingly deliberate misinterpretation, said she had "certainly never had somebody say that I should be decapitated" before. Sanders also listed several other examples of what she called "harassment" by the "liberal media," though didn't mention how a year ago, she defended President Trump's declaration that congressional Democrats were "treasonous." The crime of treason is technically still punishable by death, but as Sanders put it last February, Trump was "clearly joking."

In the Mueller report, Sanders said her claim that "countless members of the FBI" had lost confidence in its then-director James Comey, prompting President Trump to fire him, was "not founded on anything." She said the misstatement was a "slip of the tongue." After Sanders' Fox appearance, Ryan retweeted a video of and doubled down on her comments. Watch them below. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:24 a.m.

President Trump is suing to block House Democrats' subpoena of his financial statements.

Trump and the Trump Organization have filed a lawsuit against House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) over his recent subpoena of the president's accounting firm, The Washington Post reports. The filing accuses Democrats of waging an "all-out political war" against Trump and using subpoenas as their "weapon of choice," per Axios.

Cummings had previously requested financial records from an accounting firm Trump and his business have used, Mazars USA, and this lawsuit seeks to block the subpoena. The subpoena was issued after Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified that the president in the past has inflated his wealth on financial statements, with Cummings seeking to corroborate these claims, per Politico.

The suit says that the subpoena from Democrats "lacks any legitimate legislative purpose, is an abuse of power, and is just another example of overreach by the president's political opponents," per NBC News. Cummings has not yet responded, but he previously said per The Wall Street Journal that his committee has "full authority to investigate whether the president may have engaged in illegal conduct before and during his tenure in office." Brendan Morrow

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